History shown with days as dots
so centuries fit on a screen

This is an interactive visualization presenting history with days represented as dots.

I speculate that this discreteness, might lend concreteness, to what otherwise can feel disorientingly abstract. "Summer 1513? It's right there!"

Historical timelines are increasingly common. But only linear ones. 2D timelines are common as calendars, but remain otherwise rare (as of 2012). Perhaps this denser and discrete packing should be more widely used.

This is a test piece for Zoom-Smush Time , an app to teach time. It would permit zooming, and altering the clusters, width and spacing. Here these are all fixed, leaving only limited scrolling. The current unzoomable tiny dots, and flat years, do have several UX disadds.

My objective here is to provide an intriguing example of what can be done. To encourage people to "do this kind of thing".

Hints for use

Click in the 1800's, and there's a link to the google newspapers of that day. Enter a query in the nearby search box, and all the prepared search links will include it. Sorry, you can't spin the Earth yet, and it's most interesting in 2004.


Why no newspaper from the 1700's? As of 2013-01, it seems the open access movement hasn't hit this area yet. Nor Google newspapers. Nor LoC (did 1800's). Most are locked behind paywalls - copyright is a major obstacle to implementing content like this. Our societal toolkit for digitization of archival material is currently rather hard on broad access and innovative use. Google books has some in book form (eg, The Spectator) - an index into them would need to be generated.

Related topics

Zoom-Smush Time.
Interactively explore time, by zooming and rearranging it.
With libration and terminator shadows, and historical time.
Pictures of telephones, about one per decade, to provide technology orientation.


World population
<1950 from "The World at Six Billion", as UN 1999 on Historical Estimates of World Population.
1950-2020 from Total Midyear Population for the World: 1950-2050 (downloaded 2012-12-25).
2020-2100 from World Population Prospects, the 2006 Revision.
2100-2200 from WORLD POPULATION TO 2300 (2003), tweaked.

Wikipedia On This Day. Source. Downloaded on 2012-12-03.

LIFE Magazine. Source, from Google. Issue UIDs were downloaded on 2012-12-03.

New York Tribune. Source, from Library of Congress's Chronicling America.

Jeffersonian Republican. Source, from Library of Congress's Chronicling America. Issue dates were downloaded on 2012-12-12.

A Moon-phase widget - towards photorealism.

Moon image. Clementine derivative.
Moon phase. Modified Keith Burnett's ephemeris.
3D. three.js

An Earth-seasons widget.

Earth 2004 images. NASA's Earth Observatory's Blue Marble Next Generation's "Month, Blue Marble Next Generation" (no topography or bathymetry) images ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 ).
Earth relief map. Census of Marine Life's ref_etopo1.jpg. Used without permission.
3D: three.js

Astronomy code: Orb.js
Julian date conversion: Walker's calendar.js.
Date manipulation: Moment.js :(


That's the end of end-user content. This is an unusually large Doables section. A pile of thoughts on what might be done better.


In FF, bing images don't preview until you visit it once (chromium is fine).

Bugs: Trib day-wise region takes too long to render. WP:OTD has unicode bugs.


Support user&3rd-party content. Microdata/formats. (eg 1 2) But make clear that with deteriorating copyright law, it might have to go away with zero notice.


UX test. Especially discoverability.

Screen size -> non-kludge. Deal with tablets?

Pages for widgets with external content? For hints like "page N of the Some Newspaper tends to have nice stories".

What appearance for error bars? Bar with gradients, x for prob and y for 'weakly attached to individual days'?

Add right-hand-side persistent preview. Add page overlay pointing. Add region indicators. Add region underlabels. Add individual and regional overdots. Add scrolling 'right of scroll bar' annotation&graph column.

Bantering ux - when inactive, show stuff.

How to maintain position among resizing info boxes? Separate dynamic info? Into box? cursor-following popup?

Dot per day, linear years, has issues. Hard to track year. Dot size constrained by screen realestate. Often excess precision, especially earlier. Add different clumping? 7x52? 6x5x12? Qtr wide? Month wide? Different zoom? Week dots. Month dots. Year dots.

Tilt, 2.5D and 3D - tradeoffs. For year-across, awaiting "retina" resolution. Except for markers of course.

UX misc. Blackboard instead of boxes? Arrow keys? The '02 data-in-popup had a nicer feel - is sidebar too far?


Implement your/anyone's life widget. N days old.

Solar system: move; input.

Need visual context: {London/Paris/NYC/Antwerp/HK} photo series. Telephone. Rhs bing images.

Big picture: Urban people-hours/day as non-subsistence proxy. World pop density maps.

Implement: Time playback. Slideshow.

Add LOC's day in history.

WP OTD has journalism-like violent trivia. Remove it once LOC is in?

Add WP events. Scrapped or deep-linked rhs preview.

Add gapminder.org? Plausible?

Add a diary. Finding a good one isn't easy.

This page

Clean up credits. Explain non-use of ggl api. Discuss big picture? Teachable moment for long-term learning tech, 3d&AR? Temporal search (both ways)?

Discuss cognitive distortion. 365x asymetric. Last year looks as close as yesterday - the past seems closer that it is. For real app, hope is interactive squishing will counter. For this demo...? A faster playback - to see the days flicker by, but the years crawl? Suggest exercise of [-day] clicking?


Refactor content widgets to declarative json.

Does anyone have a nice date algebra? A controlled vocabulary?

Dev misc: Landmark pins. A google-maps-like pin might emphasize the 2d map-like spaceness. Cycle data layers z-index? Date one-liner popups. Date-based bantering. Editable date entry. When newspapers are out of range, clicking scrolls to range. Have WP:OTD always show text, with a "n days from now/ago" prefix. Regions, with stripes. Overlay line from newspaper to active region, especially when that's scrolled off screen. Support embeddable bite-sized dot time windows. I18n. Flags. Edge tags. Easter eggs. Volcanos. A fast playback, for "last year is as close as yesterday" distortion.

Page history

"Visualizing History with Dots", a UI test.
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